Over the weekend, a friend and I decided to let our worlds collide and Frankenstien up a gastro-concoction fitting of jaw-dropping praise. The idea was simple: to fuse his passion for friescurdsgravy and my passion for barbecue and birth a pulled-pork poutine of epic proportions. We were fully aware that JKWB serves said dish, but that did not deter. Rather, it acted as a benchmark by which we were out to not only succeed, but obliterate in the process.
The Cue Part
As with any cue dish, the primary concern is time. Barbecuing any meat requires both a lot of prep and cook time so it was key to manage this and get started early.
Saturday morning I set out on my bike to European Deli to get myself a pork shoulder. I’ll usually get my hogs over at my butcher in St. Lawrence Market (north market) as his cuts and service is grade A. But with time being my major obstacle, I had to compromise and hit up ED.
What a bad move.
Picking meat for any preparation requires a good eyeball and some rigorous scrutiny. For pulled pork, this means finding the ideal cut that’s nicely marbled with fat. Fat marbling is absolutely imperative for good cue. And when I requested shuffling through the selection, I was greeted with exasperation and impatience from the lady helping me out. It also doesn’t help that she didn’t know what a “picnic shoulder” was. Christ. Imagine going to the dentist and him not knowing what fluoride is.
Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be returning to European Deli. In my haste and shortness, I grabbed a less than desirable shoulder for cuing but with time being of the essence, I had to make do.
Prepping the shoulder, you’ll want to rid that fucker of its skin. Some people like to keep it on. I prefer to hack it off as you won’t be incorporating it into the dish later. Additionally, you can prep it separately and have yourself some good ol cracklin’.
When peeling the skin back, be sure to leave about 1/8th of an inch of fat on the meat. FAT IS ESSENTIAL! This is what will render down during the smoking process and tenderize the meat by keeping it moist.
After the skin and fat has been trimmed, a rub will go on. Rub’s are the cherry on top – its the difference between having a good pulled pork and an excellent pulled pork. A heavy rub will also make a good bark (thats the dark shit or the outer layer that turns dark). In this case, the rub consisted of chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, kosher salt, and a medley of other spices. At this stage you want to ensure that all of the meat’s crevasses are crammed with rub. You’re basically finger banging your pork.
Once generously covered, wrap it in saran and stick it in the fridge to ‘marinate’. This should at the very least take 4 hrs and for best results, leave over night.
Smoking your cue is do or die time. It’s soldiers leaping out of the trenches and crossing the line; it’s the dying seconds of the game with less than 24 on the clock and the ball in your hand. This is the stage where all the magic comes to life. Or conversely, where you can fuck everything up and make your cue taste like camp-fired dog shit.
Three key things at this point: 1) pre-heat your cue and get it up to temp (200 – 225 degrees) 2) place that slab in there via indirect method 3) let it sit there and don’t open the lid. The basic principle is to keep a consistent level of heat going and an even flow of smoke. Too much smoke and your pork will taste bitter. Too little, and it won’t have that rich smokey flavor. Maintaining such consistency is quite the craft and is the playing field that characterizes each cue’r and their end result.
Wood is also an integral ingredient. They will all emit different aromas and tastes and all react differently depending on your game. This time around, I used a mixture of cherry and chestnut wood as fuel.
Average about 1 – 1.5 hrs per pound and baste it every hour.
This was a 4.5 pound slab, so it sat on there for roughly 5hrs. Small time in relation to the other shit I’ve smoked.
We chose Yukon Golds for this dish. I would have probably opted for Russets if they were available but, I’ve had Yukon Gold fries before and I like em. Cut into 1/4 inch frites, they were then twice fried in a healthy vat of hot oil consisting of 1 part peanut oil and 3 parts lard. After bathing in our vat, they were dried then salted for added flavor. Note: unless you want your house to smell like perma-McDonalds, its best to do any frying outside. Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to a propane deep fryer so we kind of got all Food-Jammers at this point.
St. Alberts curds brought in from the Ottawa/Gatineau region then frozen. I never knew this, but this keeps them fresh and squeaky.
Ben whipped up some gravy that consisted of mushroom gravy out the can, fresh black pepper and pork juice trimmings (from the pulled pork). Even though we used pre-made gravy, the added ingredients were a nice touch.
The End Result
Definitely ranked up there as one of the best poutines I’ve had. Not a traditional french poutine, but in all honesty, the shit was euphoric. The three of us pretty much inhaled all 5 pounds of poutine and within a matter of minutes, were consumed with glazed eyes, slurred speech and pork burps. I’ll let the pics and Curdsade do the talking.